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New year begins with showroom buzz

Dealers are unanimously reporting a distinct shortage of quality used cars available for stock, despite leading auction houses enjoying brisk trade to kick-start the new year.

The period between Christmas and the first couple of weeks of January, traditionally a quiet time, has seen remarkable interest in the used car market, with customers going into showrooms with the intention of upgrading their present car for something a bit newer or more flash.

Dealers able to maintain a respectable level of new car sales are the ones getting the attractive part-exchange vehicles that are in demand. Salesmen who have fallen asleep over the past few months, as showroom traffic slowed right down, are having to pinch themselves to see if this sudden interest is not a dream.

The companies that are taking the 'come on lads, let's get on with it' approach and are prepared to deal with anyone who wanders through the door are certainly the ones doing the business.

The lack of part exchanges during the last quarter of 1999 and the slow start to new car sales this year is at the root of the shortage of used cars. The trade, though, remains picky and refuses to buy anything just for the sake of filling spaces on the forecourt.

Dealers know what they want and will pay good money, but they also know what is undesirable and unwanted, and will walk over hot coals around a vehicle in an attempt to avoid owning it.

Well prepared, ready to retail cars from the leasing industry are the ones creating the most interest at auction, while those requiring work are getting left behind, as dealers seek the fastest turnaround possible. Heavy tackle is still struggling, regardless of condition or mileage, and values continue to be under pressure.

Many dealers are reporting that January got off to the worst start in living memory for new car sales, on the back of a public patiently holding back in the expectation of widespread price cuts.

But those dealers who are able to offer cheap finance and free insurance on bottom of the range affordable cars are the ones doing the business.

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